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Marty Simpsons big-play breakdown: Offense

In this special feature, former Gamecock football player Marty Simpson takes a look at some of the big plays from the South Carolina-Vanderbilt football game.
Offensive note No. 1: Damiere Byrd made a game-saving tackle on the kick-off return after the Gamecocks took the lead 17-13. This is a tribute to great recruiting. In the past, this would have been a touchdown, but because the Gamecocks have recruited world-class speed they were able to save the touchdown and save the game. Yes, this is a special teams note, but Byrd is an offensive player.
Offensive note No. 2: Bruce Ellington blocked well on the perimeter and made a great tackle on the interception. If Bruce is not going to get the ball more often, I wouldn't mind seeing what he looked like playing free safety or cornerback.
Offensive note No. 3: Justice Cunningham made the catch of the game. He took the hit and held on to the football like a man. For some reason this play was not chosen as a highlight to break down, so I don't have the video of it. However, I wanted it noted for the record.
And now, here are the Gamecock plays, as chosen by the SEC Network, broken down in complete detail for you.
Lattimore 29-yard touchdown run
First of all, notice the personnel package that is in this play. Two tight ends and one back. I predict we will see more and more of this package as the year progresses because of the outstanding tight ends.
This is a basic zone read to the right side. The numbers are set up from the start of the play, meaning, the Gamecocks have three players to block Vandy's three players, assuming the backside doesn't break down, which it didn't.
The key block is made by the offensive right guard (Ronald Patrick). Two outstanding solo blocks were made by the offensive right tackle (Mike Matulis) and right tight end (Buster Anderson). The guard's job is to "zone step" toward the tackle's defender in order to double team that player at the point of attack. The zone-blocking philosophy dictates that the guard continue upfield if there is no defender left in his zone and that is exactly what the right guard did.
If you rewind, you will see the right guard take an initial angle toward the defender over the tackle. When the tackle's man shoots upfield into the offensive backfield, the right tackle does a great job of staying connected to him driving him past the point of attack backwards. The solo block on the right tight end is outstanding man-on-man blocking as well.
The athleticism shown by the right guard to move laterally with quickness and power, and then be able to square his hips back up the field to block the plugging linebacker indicates that this play will be one we see more and more as the season progresses. What the right guard (who is a monster, for what it's worth) is doing with his body is not easy to do for normal people, much less a guy who is 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds.
At the point of attack, Lattimore is the best in the country at making the defense pay for not playing perfectly. The plugging linebacker needed to get his outside shoulder free and force Lattimore to break this run back to where his teammates were, but Lattimore just leans his body ever so slightly to the inside, all the while knowing he is dictating action on the linebacker's part to set him up. This is why a player like Lattimore is so fun to block for if you are an offensive lineman. Because the right guard's commitment to his technique becomes a touchdown when you have Lattimore running the football behind you. It's vastly easier to execute a block if the defender's leverage is dictated by the running back ahead of time.
This play would be a nice gainer as blocked and as run by Lattimore, but it's a touchdown because of Connor Shaw's ability to run the football. The defenders on the backside have to respect the fact that Shaw may have the football. They only take one false step each, but that one step creates the space necessary for Lattimore to break free. (Noteworthy: It's created by Shaw's ability to run the football and the defense having to honor that AS OPPOSED TO his carrying out a fake of any kind.)
All of the glory created by the playside blocking on this play would not have created a touchdown without the backside doing a perfect job of creating a pile. When you run the zone read what you need from the backside is zero penetration into the backfield and that's exactly what they did.
Lattimore did a great job closing the deal at the end of this play by punching it in the end zone. Often if he is stopped at the goal line it could turn into a field goal. Worth noting is how awkward he looked cutting back on his knee. I wasn't sure if the brace made it look awkward or if it was actually awkward. Either way, it didn't look 100 percent to me, which is a concern.
However, you have to love Lattimore's moxie. First play back is a fumble, and the first play after the fumble is a touchdown. Knee brace or not, Lattimore is a beast.
Ladler interception of Connor Shaw
Note: This video may not work. We have alerted the SEC Network of the issue.
This is just a very simple bench route. It's a high-low read for the quarterback on the flat defender. The only coaching point is if you throw "the high" you can't miss inside. And that is what Shaw does here. He makes a fine read, because the flat-defender was not going to intercept this pass. But Shaw missed his target by just enough on the inside to allow for the safety, who made a nice break on the ball, to intercept it.
Something else I noticed about this play was Cunningham's timing as he ran "the low" route of the "high-low" seemed off. This allowed the cornerback (flat-defender in Cover 2) to not respect "the low" as much as he should have. This didn't really influence the interception at all, but I am sure it will be a correctable coaching point during film review with the team.
Bruce Ellington made a very nice tackle of the ball carrier to save a big play on the return. So there's proof, he can tackle. Now, either get the ball to Bruce more, or find out if he can cover like he can tackle and put the kid on defense.
STAY TUNED: On Tuesday, Simpson breaks down plays from defensive side of things.
From coach to comedian: Marty Simpson is a former Academic All-Conference player who scored the Gamecocks' first 6 points in the SEC. During 8 years as a high school varsity coach, Simpson led his team to the state finals and saw one player advance to set an NFL rookie record. Simpson now divides his time between his family, running Blue-Eyed Panda, Co-Hosting The Corey Miller Show on 560 The Team, and traveling the country as a stand-up comedian.

Check out Marty's comedian website here.
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